Friends, Society of

Friends, Society of

Protestant denomination that arose in England in the mid-17th century. The movement began with radical English Puritans called Seekers, who rejected the Anglican church and other existing Protestant sects. They took their faith from itinerant preachers such as George Fox, who emphasized “inward light,” or inward apprehension of God, as the source of religious authority. Quaker meetings are characterized by patient silence in which members wait for inspiration to speak. The movement grew rapidly after 1650 (when a judge gave them their name because “we bid them tremble at the word of God”), but its members were often persecuted or imprisoned for rejecting the state church and refusing to pay tithes or swear oaths. Some emigrated to America, where they were persecuted in Massachusetts Bay Colony but found toleration in Rhode Island and in the Quaker colony of Pennsylvania, which was chartered by Charles II under the sponsorship of William Penn in 1681. Other marks that became characteristic of Quakerism were plain speech and dress, pacifism, and opposition to slavery. The group also emphasizes philanthropy, especially aid to refugees and famine victims; the American Friends Service Committee and (British) Friends Service Council shared the 1947 Nobel Peace Prize.


Friends, Society of known as Quakers

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